Hearing Begins On Kennedy's Cousin Rape Trial – 12/2/1991

US History |

On this day in 1991, hearings began on the much publicized rape trial of William Kennedy Smith, a nephew to former President John F. Kennedy and the son of his sister Jean Kennedy Smith who was a former ambassador to Ireland. The 30-year old young man, who was a medical student at Georgetown University, was accused of sexually abusing a 29-year old woman from Florida in the morning of March 30, 1991, at the Kennedy's family house in Palm Beach, Florida.

According to report, Smith, his cousin Patrick Kennedy and uncle, Senator Ted Kennedy went out on the night of March 29, in Palm Beach. Later, they decided to visit a nightclub called "Au Bar" where Smith met the woman who followed him back home to the family's home. Smith and the woman decided to take a walk on the beach that same night where Smith supposedly assaulted her. In court, Smith stood for himself, where he affirmed that he had sex with the woman but it was with her consent. In addition, prosecutors tried bringing in three other women to testify that Smith had sexually assaulted them but Judge Mary E. Lupo barred them from the hearing.

The case became an issue of open investigation with the media televising the hearings live because Smith is a member of one of America's well-known families. Viewers from around the globe tune-in their TV set to watch the live coverage of the hearing as it happened inside the courtroom in West Palm Beach. Finally, on December 11, after thorough discussion for 77 minutes, the six-panel jury gave their final verdict and confirmed that Smith was not guilty on the charges. Additionally, in 1995, a member of the jury Lisa Haller married Smith's lead defense attorney Roy black.

In order to protect the identity of the victim, the face of the woman was blot during the live television coverage of the trial. However, after the trial, the victim, Patricia Bowman, decided to reveal her identity to the public.

After the trial, William Kennedy Smith became a specialist helping those that were victims of land mines, and lived out most of his life out of the public eye. A Chicago woman, who was Smith's personal assistant at the Center for International Rehabilitation (a nonprofit organization) in 2004, filed a lawsuit against Smith, accusing him of sexual assault. Unfortunately, a judge dismissed the case. 

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Lelani Bright

Writer

Lelani began her writing career when was just a little girl and was named editor of her school’s paper her senior year. She took it as an honor when her classmates couldn’t wait to read what she had to say on certain topics. She didn’t like the hustle and bustle of working for her city paper. That is when her career began here and she hasn’t looked back since.